COVID-19: A pastor’s perspective: An invigorating run

Importance of social distancing and hunkering in to stop the transmission of the virus

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Father David BonnarI am a runner. At 58 years old, I don’t run as fast or as much as I used to, but I still enjoy lacing the running shoes, putting the earbuds on and just taking off. There is something so invigorating to this exercise.

The other day I took a run. I needed to run. Part of me was running away from all that is happening with the novel coronavirus pandemic. I cannot believe it is happening. It seems like a nightmare. I keep waiting to wake up. But it is real.

Another part of me is running toward something. I discovered on that day that I am running toward people. Ever since the cancellation of public Mass and the closure of all activities, I have been missing the People of God. I am by nature a people person. While I have become more introverted over the years and appreciate solitude more and more, I remain an extrovert who loves to be around people.

There is, of course, a difference between solitude and isolation or social distancing. One is freely chosen. In fact, running can be a form of solitude. The other is often imposed. As I ran along the sidewalk through town, I was very conscious of others walking and running. Under the circumstances, I did my best to sidestep and avoid coming too close. It clearly was not a normal run. As I made these obvious modifications, some motorists and pedestrians even gave me thumbs up or thanked me.

But not all of the people I saw on my four-mile run were strangers. As it happened, I ran through a neighborhood and encountered familiar faces otherwise known as parishioners. I cannot even begin to tell you how elated I was to see them. It was so heartwarming to see a smile and to smile myself.

One of the parishioners I saw is an emergency room doctor at the local hospital. She was outdoors with her two children who were pushing each other around in a two-seat stroller. Oh to be young again and to not have a care in the world! They were having so much fun. The mom said: “This is our new existence. They are not even asking to go anywhere.”

She added that they have had some special family time. By the way, while she anticipates things becoming worse before they get better, she was hopeful. She even told me that she prays with her patients and asked how she should pray with those afflicted with this terrible illness.

Another parishioner I encountered was out walking. We both were mindful of being socially distant. But we both felt a bit of normalcy, if only for a few moments. Once again, there were smiles and even some laughter.

The good news is that more and more people are coming to see the importance of social distancing and hunkering in to stop the transmission of the virus. While it seems so unnatural and particularly lonely for priests and those who live alone, it is the only way right now. Stay safe! For that to happen we may not be able to see one another for a while.

FATHER DAVID J. BONNAR, editor of The Priest, is a pastor of 15 years in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, where he has served in numerous roles. Follow and like The Priest magazine on Facebook.

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